2009 was a big year for me.
It was the year I was to graduate from college, the year I would finally embark on real “adulthood,” and thanks to THIS IS IT- the year I would finally get to see Michael Jackson in concert again.
First let’s go back to March 2009- specifically when Michael Jackson held a press conference to announce his new series of shows, THIS IS IT.
If feels like yesterday, standing up in my dorm room. Late for class but, my eyes glued to CNN as we awaited Michael Jackson’s arrival to the podium. I had no inkling that a tour would be announced because by that time, my days looking for news or being on MJJForum were long behind me. After the 2003 trial I’d told myself that I would be okay whether Michael ever performed or ever recorded another song again. Maybe he would go off and have an enjoyable life with his family and kids. Maybe he would escape and relocate to some remote island and live a life of peace and freedom. Or just maybe he will decide to do a Las Vegas residency like Celine Dion, I thought, and I’d be able to go and see him there years later.
It still pleases me to think about how happy I was that Spring. By 2009, I had been in the Michael Jackson fan community for 5 or 6 years and had made great friends both online and off. It would be a lie to say I’d already purchased tickets and made concrete plans to go to see the THIS IS IT show in London. I hadn’t. But it was a wonderful opportunity that many friends and I were considering.
Of course, I had no idea that the March press conference would be one of the last times I would see Michael Jackson alive.
On the 10th anniversary on Michael Jackson’s death, I am finally sitting down to type this story out. Not because I am looking for sympathy, not because I want to make anyone reading this post sad but, because I know there are other fans out there who relate to my experience. This is what happened and how my world changed, the day Michael Jackson passed away (June 25, 2009).
It was a sunny and warm summer day in NYC. I had graduated about a month before and was spending this summer on the job hunt. Thankfully most of my hunting was done online so, I was able to take my time. This gave me a summer free of responsibilities. June 25th was one of those days I decided to hang out with some of my new neighborhood friends.
I had grown up in a pretty small and quaint neighborhood in New York City but, had always gone to schools outside of the zone. It was a good educational decision but, I didn’t grow up with many friends who were “around the corner”. To finally meet some ladies who I enjoyed spending time with and didn’t have to travel far to was something I truly enjoyed.
The girls knew I’d been abroad before and we’d had some very loose conversations about attending the shows in London. For those of you that have read my blog entries or kept up with my Youtube channel before, you already know that I've seen Michael and his brothers live in concert in 2001. I was always so grateful for that opportunity but attending that show was during my first week of high school (I was only 14!) and it was also the day before the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center. It goes without saying, the memories of that day were foggy and I knew that THIS IS IT was a perfect time to see him again. I’ll be honest, I’d been saving up for this. Ever since I began working part time and other odd jobs I’d always kept a couple hundred dollars put away as much MJ concert fund. In my mind it was inevitable that I would be seeing him live again and this time, I didn’t want to be in the bleachers at the top of the venue. I wanted to be front and center.
Our plan that day was to go to the Modern Museum of Art here in midtown Manhattan. Honestly, I wasn’t ever one for visual arts. Besides my love for Michael Jackson and his dance/visual artistry, I can’t say I’d gladly walk around a museum all day but, I obliged and was on board with the plan. Around 1pm I arrived at my girlfriend’s home and sat on her couch- just hanging out! It wasn’t long before we started our girl chit chat that we realized that the museum would be closed and that our day of cultured exploration would now be another afternoon of mindlessly zoning out in front of the television.
A few hours into my day, the phone rang. The unfamiliar voice on the end of the line was Robert* (name changed for privacy*). Rob was one of my casual online MJ fan friends- someone I’d chatted with here and there for the last few years about Michael. I’d never met him in person much less talked on the phone and the only reason we’d exchanged numbers at all is because we were in a group chat. I was surprised to see his name come up on my phone.
“Hi" said the muffled voice on the other end. “It’s me Robert…” in between audible sniffles. It sounded like he was crying. Confused, I made a lighthearted attempt to confirm with him that he’d called the right person.
“Hey listen Robert… are you okay? You know you’re calling mjfangirl, right?”
He told me that we had to pray for Michael because he wasn’t doing well. It turned out that had connections to someone at TMZ, lived in California and knew some inside information that I hadn’t been aware of. I quietly reassured him that it would be ok and hung up after a couple of minutes. Michael Jackson passing away or even being HURT was the furthest thing from my mind.
Michael had always been somewhat of a super hero to me. He was super human in so many ways. He broke barriers, he united people all over the world, he seemed to be untouchable. In my mind, his death would never happen… at least not anytime soon.
And then the TV reports came.
We turned on the television and saw the headlines.
Michael Jackson suffers heart attack.
Michael Jackson rushed to UCLA Medical Center.
Michael Jackson suffers cardiac arrest.
I didn’t know what to think of the reports or what to expect but, I tried not to let nerves get the best of me.
I continued the lighthearted girl-chat until I received a phone call from my father. Now he is and always has been the OG Michael Jackson fan in the family. (OG means original gangsta but… in this case let’s just say he’s the original! haha) He is the one who hung up the large 24x36 Billie Jean poster up in the back door of my nursery as a baby and the one who taught me everything I knew about MJ and all music in general. He called and told me we’d always discussed the possibility of him being gone ... which we had. We had discussions about how the greats die young and how we hoped and prayed it wouldn’t happen that way to Michael. But his call was to remind me to stay strong no matter what. And that’s when the tears came.
I guess sometimes it takes a parent’s delivery to solidify a truth. I was in serious denial that anything could ever happen to Michael and less than 10 mins after our call ended, came the unthinkable.
The first reports came in that Michael Jackson had died that day in Los Angeles and I knew that my life would never be the same.
The world would never be the same.
I sat in tears and in complete shock, as I watched a news reporter summarize his life in 2 minutes and then stop with a still image of my hero, emblazoned with the years 1958-2009.
I will never forget the impact that Michael Jackson had on my life.
June 25th 2009 was the day Michael left this Earth in the physical but, to me it wasn’t the end.
How could it be?
For as long as I can remember, Michael Jackson has been THAT artist. He will always live on. I believe his legacy is in his humanitarianism, his music, his art. I read a quote of Michael’s once and I’ll have to paraphrase it because I can’t find the exact source but, he said the goal isn’t to live forever but to create something that will — and I think he’s accomplished that a million times over.